Grandma of markets raising families
Bargains galore – one can buy virtually anything at the stalls
EVEN though flea markets selling curios and treats have become the trendy new places to frequent in Pretoria – one such market exists which could be regarded as the grandmother of markets.
That is none other than the Pretoria Zoo flea market, which stands at the entrance of the city from the north side.
The market is next to the entrance of the National Zoological Gardens on Paul Kruger Street and it is the sign for many travelling from townships such Mabopane, Soshanguve, Hammanskraal and Ga-Rankuwa that they have arrived in the city centre. It offers dresses, straw mats, beaded necklaces, crafted cutlery, traditional hats, shoes, herbs, paintings – an endless list of curios.
Traditional artifacts from African cultures can be found, some of them coming from Swaziland and Botswana, and items range in price; shoppers can spend anything from R5 to R500 for anything, including intricate beaded masterpieces.
Almost everything is hand-made, and shoppers can request items be custom made, in some cases, pieces can be made while they wait.
Sophie Masemola from New Eersterus, Hammanskraal, recalled how she first came to the market with her grandmother in 1961. Her grandmother had a stall and the girl was enthralled by what could be achieved.
Masemola said she followed in her grandmother’s steps and started creating her own pieces to sell when she turned 12 in 1976.
“There wasn’t much to do back then, so my grandmother started teaching us how to create single-beaded necklaces. When she saw that we were genuinely interested, she would then teach us how to create more difficult pieces,” she said.
Masemola said there was no proper infrastructure and they would often get caught in the rain, heat and other elements.
“It was a difficult time for us because if we weren’t battling the weather, then we would get harassed by the police,” she said.
Despite the challenges, she said her family chose to continue selling at the market rather than resort to domestic work.
“We used to sell each beaded necklace for 20 cents, and if you managed to make at least R20, you were sorted for the rest of the day.”
She said that thankfully, things had improved, as they could now sell their pieces for a greater profit.
“This place, as quiet as it seems, helped my grandmother raise our entire family on whatever money she made from selling her goods.”
Masemola said there had been a shift in the customer profile and more black people had started taking an interest in their goods and often bought them in bulk to resell.
Josephina Mabena said she started working at the market in 1980 when she was just 18.
“I came here because my mother wanted to keep us out of trouble and to teach us a skill we could use for the rest of our lives.
“It’s a pity not many tourists visit this side of the city. We take great pride in the things we make,” Mabena said. “We’re always here and only take time off when we need to visit family or during an emergency.”
The market is open Monday to Sunday from 7am.
Beadwork designer Josephina Mabena making traditional accessories. Buyers can have items customer made.